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Starting from the bottom in real estate and healthcare

Earlier this week when I responded to a Globe and Mail article that was arguing condo rents were on the decline in Toronto, I talked about how imperfect and opaque I feel the real estate market is. Today I’d like expand on that.

The reason I call the real estate industry imperfect is because of 2 main reasons: first, there’s a lot of friction when it comes to buying and selling as a result of high transaction costs (amongst other things); and, second, there are massive information asymmetries between marketplace participants. This could be buyers and sellers, purchasers and developers, clients and real estate agents, and so on.

But it’s only a matter of time before these issues get resolved. And I think it’ll happen through better access to data and more transparency in the marketplace. The question, however, is: Where is this big data going to come from?

I was reading Fred Wilson’s post this morning on Large Networks, Big Data, and Healthcare, and I was struck by a parallel. Here’s what stood out for me:

“The question is who will control the input of the patient data, the aggregated data sets, and the results the data science produces. If the answer is the current healthcare system; the insurance companies, the hospitals, and the doctors, then we will have missed a big opportunity to reshape healthcare. If, on the other hand, the data is entered by patients, controlled by patients, and benefits patients, then we would have something new, different, and disruptive.”

In both healthcare and real estate, we have large bureaucratic institutions and bodies that control the industry. And in both instances, we’ve seen that they’ve been slow to adapt to the changing times. Therefore, I think the billion dollar opportunity is the same in both: the data is going to have to come from the ground up via patients and real estate consumers. Only then will we have something truly innovative.

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